Department of Health and Human Services

The Future of Youth Justice in Our Community

Act 185 in Milwaukee County

Project Rise

What Is Act 185?

Act 185 refers to 2017 Wisconsin Act 185, a piece of legislation passed unanimously by the Wisconsin State Legislature in March 2018, and published into law on March 31, 2018.

The law sets the Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls, both youth correctional facilities in Irma, Wisconsin, operated by the Wisconsin State Department of Corrections, on a path to close by January 2021.

Act 185 will provide grants to local government entities, to establish their own, local residential care facilities, as well as to the Wisconsin State Department of Corrections to create smaller, distributed secure facilities. 

This page is the information hub for everything about the DYFS youth secure care center, including building and location plans when they become publicly available, as well as program and aftercare plans for youth housed in the facility.

Ultimately, two secure residential facilities are planned for Milwaukee County for youth involved in the justice system.  

One will be built and operated by the Wisconsin State Department of Corrections, the other will be built and operated by the Milwaukee County DHHS Division of Youth and Family Services.

To see what DYFS has already accomplished in its model for youth justice reform, visit the Project Rise information page.

Our Objective

For seven years, Milwaukee County has worked to redesign its entire approach to youth justice in order to invest in evidence-based, healing-focused and community-centric solutions that put young people on a path to empower their own safe, healthy, meaningful lives.

Over recent years, it was found that youth placed at the Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls in northern Irma, Wisconsin were having experiences that generated negative outcomes post-release.  Since that revelation, the Milwaukee County DHHS Division of Youth & Family Services has worked diligently to reduce the number of youth sent from our community to those facilities down to zero.

2017 Wisconsin Act 185, the legislature that ends the use of those two facilities as a youth prison is a major step in achieving that goal, bringing our youth back home, and exposing them to programming and methods that are proven to help young people succeed once they return home.

Now, one of the biggest responsibilities placed on DYFS is to create a new youth secure care center, for youth under 17 years of age and with a non-"serious" disposition.

Our aims for this center are the same as our core mission for youth justice: Building safer neighborhoods, treating young people as individuals, fostering their development and rewriting their futures.

The task is big, the timeline is tight, but we have the right people on the job, and this is the place where we will keep you up to date about what is happening.


Bakari Center Aims to Keep Justice-involved Youth Close to Home, Reduce Recidivism

Bakari House front entrance

by: Allison Dikanovic - Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service

Bakari is the Swahili word for “promising.” Those who have been working for more than a year to bring the Bakari Center to life hope the name proves to be appropriate for the new Milwaukee County residential treatment facility for youth.

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Milwaukee Residents Voice Ideas for Housing Juvenile Offenders

by: Marti Mikkelson - WUWM

Several dozen people turned out Wednesday night to discuss how Milwaukee County will house juveniles once the troubled Lincoln Hills facility closes in two years.

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Juvenile Justice Advocates Garner Community Input to Improve Outcomes for Youth Offenders

by: Allison Dikanovic - Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service

Lunch tables at North Division High School were filled as about 60 people gathered to discuss opportunities for juvenile justice reform in light of state legislation that will close Wisconsin’s youth prisons.

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Get Involved

For this project to be successful, we have to make sure we are responsive to our community. Tell us what you hope to see, and what you are concerned about. See how you can get information, or contribute, below.


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1220 W. Vliet St.

Suite 301

Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53205

Our Vision

Together, creating healthy communities.

Our Mission

Empowering safe, healthy, meaningful lives.

Our Values

Partnership, Respect, Integrity, 

Diversity, Excellence

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